“People who do not drink with others are either thieves or spies.”
You know, surprises come in all shapes and sizes and can arrive anytime. But I think that the best part of a surprise is that it is usually something that you never even thought of. Getting something that you never even knew you wanted or finding something out that is just so far out there that you could never have imagined it. Such is this case. In a little wine store here in Carolina, I found a small wine and novelty shop right near our home. Now, we are new to this part of Carolina and I have been looking for this kind of a shop, but lo and behold, there it is. Right down the road. Gifts. Novelties and local merchandise. And a very nice, imaginative selection of fine wines, some, rather most, of which I had never seen before. Monte Guelfo, or Monteguelfo, depending on where you look on the label, is a chianti. Normally I kind of move to lighter wines at this time of year but chianti is one of my favorites, so I tried it. Have to admit, a real good choice.
This is a wine from one of the estates of Andrea Cecchi. Tuscany is the region in Italy where I think winemaking began. If not, it certainly was molded and perfected there. It is the region where most wine drinkers and critics gravitate with its central Italy location. With the Tyrrhenian coast to the west and the Apennine mountains to the east it has both a continental and Mediterranean climate, perfect for grape growing. The Sangiovese grape is pretty much native here and is actually the most widely planted grape in the country, but this is its home, both ancestrally and spiritually. Chianti Classico is between Florence and Siena geographically, and for a while the area was “polluted” with other varieties like Cabernet and Syrah, but here, Sangiovese is the standard by which all others are judged.
The history of the Cecchi wineries goes back to 1893 when Luigi Cecchi used his distinctive palate and talents to become a professional wine taster, which in my humble opinion has to be the best job in the world! His reputation grew and in the 1930’s the family name was known all over the world. Then, in the 1970’s the family moved to Castellina, an historic site for Chianti Classico production. In the 1980’s, expansion would take them to villages like San Gimignano, where other types would be produced and the family name would become even more prominent throughout the industry. Today this remains very much a family business with Cesare and Andrea, the fourth generation, overseeing the entire production, ensuring the quality that Luigi had envisioned, and also the sustainability that more modern times demand.
This wine, as most reds and especially the more robust ones, should be aerated for about two hours before drinking. A deep purple color is enhanced by the strong aroma calling to mind dark berries with a hint of pepper and an earthiness. On the palate it is a feast of dried red fruits, a concentrated flavor of cherries and plums. As a chianti it is a little on the light side, mildly acidic with noticeable legs and velvety tannins. It pairs perfectly with delicate meats like lamb as the boldness of the wine gives way to the meal as the two meld into a glorious experience! Truly, this wine is not just for pasta, although it goes very well with it. I would classify it though as a dinner wine. By that I mean it goes better with food than say as a pre-dinner drink. With an alcohol content of 13.5%, the 2018 vintage ranks just behind the 2017, considered to be the finest. With a price of about $18 this is a real value wine, sure to please your most discerning guests. And since wine is meant to be shared, a drink among friends, there can be no higher praise.
So check out the smaller stores, the ones in your neighborhood that you may never have noticed. There are some gems inside. Not every oyster has a pearl, but when you find one, you have really found something.